Earlier this year eighty double-reed players joined junior members of the Royal Academy of Music in London in a commemorative performance of Handel’s Musick for the Royal Fireworks, 270 years to the day after its first performance. Laurence Perkins led the massed ensemble, with Sarah Francis and Roger Birnstingl taking sectionals earlier in the day. The audio recording of the massed performance in the Duke’s Hall is available for you to listen to below, in three parts.
More photographs of the massed ensemble performance are available in the summer 2019 edition of Double Reed News.
We have heard from Phil Westwell who has taken some interesting slow-motion photography of an uilleann bagpipe chanter double reed; there is a link below to the film on YouTube. It makes for interesting viewing.
For those who aren’t familiar with the structure of this instrument, Phil tells us that regarding construction, the uilleann bagpipe reed is like a giant oboe reed (the blades are the same size as a bassoon reed), although bagpipe reeds are free-standing rather than played in the mouth, which makes it possible to film them in normal operation. Phil says “The film contained a few surprises for me, especially the Hard D note at the end of the video. I thought it might be of interest.”
Oboists might be familiar with the abridged version of Silent Aria which appears on the ABRSM oboe syllabus; here is some background to how the full suite came to be written.
The suite for oboe and piano was published in November 2018, by Novello/Musicsales classical. There are four movements to this piece:
The Suite is written by Leicestershire Composer Philip Herbert (pictured below). It was commissioned by Serendipity UK for the 2014 ‘Let’s Dance International Festival’, where there was an opportunity to collaborate with the acclaimed choreographer Henri Oguike, along with dancers.
The Suite Silent Aria carries this title, as the suite was inspired by the work of award-winning black choreographers who worked during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, but whose work more recently has been largely been forgotten. Each movement is imbued with an eclectic array of musical influences. In the first movement, there are some beautifully sustained melodic lines for the oboe, suspended over a syncopated three-note motif, which is coupled with arpeggio figures in the piano accompaniment. Sections of this movement also contain the lush chord progressions more readily associated with a soul ballad.
The second movement is based on a soulful theme and variations which carries the influence of a spiritual/blues and pentatonic tonalities, with the opportunity for the players to swing across the beat.
The third movement is ternary in form with a dark, haunting main theme in C# minor; the mood lightens in the middle section as the music moves into C major, before returning to the opening theme in C# minor.
The fourth movement touches on calypso and Latin dance rhythms. There is plenty of room in this movement to enjoy the joyous rhythmic exchange between the oboe and piano parts!
It could be programmed with works such as Alwyn’s Sonata for Oboe & Piano, or that of Poulenc, or even Edmund Rubbra’s Sonata in C for Oboe & Piano, along with Schumann’s Romantic Pieces, Bartók’s Romanian Dances, Ravel’s Habanera, or even pieces by Benjamin Britten.